Tag Archives: Entertaining

Panna Cotta with Blueberry Port Sauce and Strawberries

If you’ve only ordered panna cotta in a restaurant, you need to make this. If you can make Jello, you can do this. It’s closely related in terms of preparation.

Panna cotta is an eggless Italian custard. It’s fairly plain but is often served with a nice fruit sauce that enhances the flavor.

I created this red, white and blue sweet treat for the Fourth of July.

Since I needed something blue for my theme, I decided to make a blueberry port sauce to pour over and it’s wonderful. Strawberries add a touch of red and texture.  It’s very nice.

For the photos, I styled my panna cotta two ways: in a champagne flute, which is beautiful; and then in a star glass dish that I bought from Dollar Tree.

 

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You can also serve them in ramekins which is more traditional.

It’s simple and perfect for a couple or small family because there’s only five servings. Enjoy!

Panna Cotta with Blueberry Port Sauce and Strawberries

Makes 5 servings

1/2 cup whole milk

1 ½ envelopes (.25 ounces each) unflavored gelatin

2 cups of heavy whipping cream (1 pint)

½ cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sauce:

1 pint blueberries

¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

3 tablespoons port

1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

For the panna cotta: place whole milk in a bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it. Set aside for 3 minutes.

Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the tiny seeds inside into a heavy bottomed pot. The seeds contain the vanilla flavor. Next add the heavy cream and sugar and heat it over medium or medium-low heat. You don’t want to rush it because you don’t want the cream to curdle. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Then pour the gelatin/milk mixture into the cream. Stir until gelatin is dissolved which takes about 3 minutes.

When it’s done, turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract.

Pour ½ cup of mixture into ramekins or champagne glasses, whatever you plan to use to serve the dish.  Refrigerate for 4 hours.

For the port sauce, heat blueberries, water and sugar in a small pan over medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes until sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens. When it’s done, stir in the port.   For a mild port flavor, use 2 tablespoons. If you want more pronounced flavor, add 3 or even 4. I used Taylor Port which is readily available, inexpensive and works wells in this recipe.

Refrigerate the port sauce until it’s time to use. Note, you can also serve the port sauce warm but if you decide to do this make it right before serving.

Before serving, top each panna cotta with blueberry port sauce and fresh strawberries.

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Lighter Artichoke Dip- 1,000 calories and 100 grams of fat lighter! But still delicious!

I adore bubbly, gooey delicious artichoke dip slathered on French bread.

It’s my weakness at any party. And  I make an incredible version but it is so unhealthy- it contains 1 cup of mayonnaise and 3 cups of cheese.

artichoke dip up close

I knew my recipe was unhealthy but had no idea how bad it was until recently when I wrote a food column about it ran the ingredients through a database and my jaw dropped: it contains 2,092 calories and 203 grams of fat.

Ouch. I calculated for the entire dish instead of per serving because you never know how much people will eat.

I’m determined not to gain weight this holiday season and that means that dip is out. I am at an age where weight doesn’t come off like it used to so I am going to be more careful which means revamping some of my favorite recipes.

So I lightened up the dip and the results were AMAZING. AMAZING. I am so proud of it. I can’t believe it saves that many calories and that much fat and still tastes this fantastic. Look how gooey it still is

artichoke cheese

.   Just by switching from artichokes packed in oil to canned ones packed in water, I saved 36 grams of fat. Then, I used light mayonnaise which slashed 39 grams of fat and 460 calories. I cut out 1 ¼ cups of cheese, too. Whenever you remove fat, you have to add extra flavor so I sprinkled it with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and garlic salt. Also, I used Parmesan because that’s a flavorful cheese.  The new dip has 1,130 calories for the entire dish which is made in a pie pan and 84 grams of fat (that’s 119 grams less of fat).

 

 

I hope you enjoy it.

Light Artichoke Dip

1 (14.5-ounce) can artichoke hearts in water, thoroughly drained and patted dry

2/3 cup Duke’s light mayonnaise (or your favorite brand)

1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese

¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the first five ingredients until combined. Place in a shallow pie pan. Top with Italian seasoning and garlic salt. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve warm with French bread or crackers.

artichoke dip on crackers

 

Still have turkey leftovers? Try Buffalo Turkey Dip

My Buffalo Turkey Dip is awesome and great for a party or watching the football game.

I make a Buffalo Chicken dip all the time and basically swapped out the chicken for turkey as a way to use those turkey leftovers.

The wing sauce is strong so it’s a good way to use a mix of white and dark meat if you don’t like dark meat because it helps cover up the taste.

It’s simple, easy and delicious.

Buffalo Turkey Dip

Serves 5 as an appetizer

2 cups chopped leftover turkey

1 to 1 ½ cups Buffalo wing sauce (depends on how spicy you like it and how dry the turkey is)

12 ounces of cream cheese (1 ½ blocks)

½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 1/4 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese mix

Celery sticks for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss together the turkey and wing sauce. Stir until all the turkey is coated.

In a pie plate or 8 by 8 inch dish, spread the cream cheese over the bottom. Then top with the turkey. Sprinkle both types of cheese over the turkey and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese bubbles on top.

Serve with thick slices of celery sticks for a low carb option. If you don’t care about carbs, serve with tortilla chips or toasted French bread.

Vertical wing dip

Last Minute Halloween Ideas

The past three weeks have been insane! I’ve been working like crazy. I finally handed my first cookbook off the publisher and it should be printing soon. Aside from that, I’ve taken on a ton of food writing this month. The holidays are good for food writers, but I’ve neglected my column. So here are some last minute Halloween ideas for your party tonight.

For me, creativity is key when celebrating. I don’t want to spend a ton of money, so I immediately hit a dollar-type store before I do any other buying. Then I supplement with merchandise from bigger retailers. It’s amazing what you can find for $1 to use for a party.

One of my favorite finds was a bag of plastic assorted spooky rings (a mix of spider, skulls and bats).  I use the rings around the stem of a wine glass to decorate it; use them to top cupcakes; glue them to a sturdy toothpick (the plastic variety) to skewer meatballs or fruit;  use them to decorate food plates (just be sure it’s obvious this isn’t edible).

ring wine charms

rings

You can also dangle plastic spiders from the ceiling on dental floss; place them in cobwebs; or cut a sliver into a pumpkin or winter squash and have the spiders climbing all over the pumpkin, which is how I serve one of my recipes this week.

An idea I saw online was to freeze ice in plastic gloves and then use those to chill punch. You can also fill plastic gloves with candy or popcorn to serve.

I like to add a splash of food color to drinks. I’ve found that a few drops of food dye to Moscato doesn’t seem to affect the flavor. I’ve tried other dry wines and it does change the taste; I think this works in Moscato because the wine is sweet. Just empty a bottle of Moscato into a pitcher and add 3 drops of red dye and 6 drops of yellow and stir. You can adjust the color as needed with more dye.

orange moscato

I’ve also added food dye to margaritas and it doesn’t change the taste either. If you serve orange margaritas, rim the glass in green salt and place a spider ring on the stem of the glass.

Take your favorite hummus recipe and spread it on a plate (store-bought is fine). Then buy a jar of roasted red bell peppers and puree 1 of the pepper without liquid. Place in a piping bag and make a pumpkin face on the hummus or a scary face. You can add a celery stick to the top of its head to look like a stem.

The flavor of the roasted pepper is great with hummus. It can be a little runny, so if you want to make a bloody looking creature this will serve you well.

Hummus with roased red pepper

Halloween Fun: Assorted Dipped Spooky Pretzels

My Assorted Dipped Spooky Pretzels are a combination of pretzel rods dipped in chocolate with an almond sliver that makes it look like a finger, and pretzel ghosts dipped in almond bark with miniature chocolate chip eyes.  The great thing about Halloween is it’s the one time of year that if you mess up what you’re making it doesn’t matter because it can just look scary. For example, misplaced eyes on my pretzel sticks don’t look bad but that would be a completely different story if this was Christmas and those were snowmen. They’d look deranged.

rods laying down

Christmas and Thanksgiving are about perfection but anything goes with Halloween, which is why I think I love it so much.

These rods are fun, easy to make and yummy (I am partial to the chocolate). If you have children, they will love helping with these

rods

. I got the idea for the pretzel finger at a Halloween festival I was at last week. A vendor was selling those chocolate fingers and I thought it was a great idea to share. I have long made the bloody finger cookie for Halloween, so thought this was a nice change.

If you want a little “blood” you could always melt raspberry jam and use it as a dip. I hope you have fun with these. My daughter loves them

Spooky pretzel rods

Assorted Dipped Spooky Pretzels

1 (12-ounce) bag of pretzel rods

2 cups of miniature chocolate chips

12 ounces of almond bark (half a package)

Almond slivers to make fingernails

Black icing or chocolate chips to decorate

Parchment paper

Clean a work space and lay parchment paper out over a cookie sheet.

For the almond bark: Melt it according to package directions (there are microwave and stovetop options but I used the microwave because it was the fastest).

To keep the almond bark from getting hard, divide it in two batches and melt it in two batches and make one batch of dipped pretzels and then the other.

When it has melted, dip 2/3 of a pretzel rod in the almond bark and swirl it around to coat it.

Place it on parchment paper. Allow to cool 5 minutes and then add mini chocolate chips for the eyes, if using chocolate chips. If you are using icing instead, allow the almond bark to cool completely before drawing the eyes and mouth on with icing.

For the chocolate dipped pretzels, place chocolate in a coffee mug and microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring between intervals, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. When it is smooth, dip the pretzel rod in the chocolate and swirl it around to coat 2/3 of it (a spoon helps with this process).

Place it on parchment paper and carefully add an almond sliver at the top to look like a finger nail.

Cool completely before serving (1-2 hours).

Spooky Squash Stuffed with Roasted Garlic Hummus

My Halloween fun continues! I’ve mentioned before that I love hummus. I eat it all the time. And I didn’t even know that it has a low glycemic index. I just found that out this week.

One thing I don’t love in hummus though is an overwhelming amount of garlic. This hummus is mild but has a rich flavor because I roast the garlic first.

Roasted garlic adds so much depth of flavor and you can use the remaining garlic cloves to create a second easy dip for your party (see the instructions under my recipe).

You can make this a day in advance, just be sure to cover the hummus with plastic wrap. Happy Halloween

I served it to company last night and they loved it.

You can make a little sign on a toothpick so guests know what they are eating. I love doing that at parties.

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Spooky Squash Stuffed with Roasted Garlic Hummus

1 small Kabocha Squash

1 head of garlic (you will roast it all, but only use three cloves)

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

1 1/2 tablespoons of the chickpea liquid reserved from the can

3 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 cloves of roasted garlic (see recipe below)

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon salt or to taste

To roast the garlic, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take an entire head of garlic and cut off the white tops of the garlic and drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. You are not peeling the garlic, you just want to cut off the tops to expose all the cloves.

Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the head of garlic has caramelized (your house will smell incredible). Allow to cool and then squeeze out the garlic cloves.

Before making hummus, reserve some of the liquid from the chickpeas and drain the rest of the can.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, chickpea liquid, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, roasted garlic, cumin and salt and pulse until smooth. Adjust salt, if desired.

Cut off the top of the Kabocha squash and remove the seeds and any stringy flesh. Use a knife to cut thin slits around the outside of the squash top and even the base, if desired. Stuff plastic spider rings in these crevices or any other creepy ring. Fill the center of the squash with hummus. Serve with pita chips and vegetables.

Tip: Serve the rest of the roasted garlic as a dip. Chop the cloves and add it to ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil. Warm it slightly (just slightly) on the stove top and add ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, ¼ teaspoon rosemary and 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, a dash of salt, and serve it with French bread.

I couldn’t decide which way I wanted to style my photos this week. Black background or orange? Spider web or no spider web? Which do you prefer?

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Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse

If you only try one new pumpkin recipe this fall, let it be my Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse.

Don’t let the word “mousse” intimidate you because this is as easy as it gets: it takes five minutes and has five ingredients. You simply whisk together sweetened condensed milk, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and whipped topping. Then serve it with gingersnap cookies for dipping (although the velvety mousse is delicious on its own).

I’ve created a variety of pumpkin mousse recipes over the years, but this is my best.

I gave my 3-year-old – who is hesitant to try new things – a bite and asked if she wanted another bite. She said: “I want the whole thing,” and promptly took it from my hands. She licked the bowl clean.

My husband said he could bathe in this; my mom said it was better than pumpkin pie. The rave reviews have ensued every time I make it (and I am sure you’ll get the same response).

This recipe will be a winner this holiday season. It’s even better after a few hours of refrigeration, but can be served immediately, too.

This mousse would be great at your Halloween party. Simply carve out a small pie pumpkin and fill it with mousse and serve it with Gingersnap cookies.

Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse

Makes 20 (2-ounce) servings

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 (8-ounce) tub of whipped topping, defrosted

Mini Gingersnap cookies to garnish

Beat or stir together sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and whipped topping, until combined.

Pour mixture into 2-ounce glasses and top with a gingersnap cookie. Serve immediately.

Other serving options: If you have a smaller crowd and want to serve larger portions, you can serve pumpkin mousse in wine glasses with or without a cookie. You can also crumble cookies and put them on top.

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